“We are going to post these videos on Facebook, on Instagram, on YouTube. It is starting to work, so I don’t care what anyone says about it.”
— Prentice Panton, owner, Reflections
The preceding is a plea for justice from a Caymanian businessman who has lost his patience with the people who continue to steal from him, and, finally, his faith in the system that is supposed to safeguard his livelihood.
The Cayman Compass’s official position on such so-called “name and shame” campaigns is we’re against them … but that doesn’t mean we don’t empathize fully with Mr. Panton’s frustrations.
For some 20 years now as he has built up his businesses, Mr. Panton has been engaged in ground-level warfare against miscreants and ne’er-do-wells. In addition to burglaries, shootings and gunpoint robberies, Mr. Panton’s stores have been targeted continually by lower-profile criminals whose offenses — shoplifting — may be considered petty in the individual instance, but in the accumulation pose a far greater threat to Mr. Panton’s entrepreneurial existence than any single “major” crime.
It is eminently understandable that Mr. Panton is in desperate need of assistance in identifying and apprehending the perpetrators. While the Compass would prefer that police first be contacted for help — Mr. Panton has done that, again and again over the years, but with only one offender ever brought to court.
Police and prosecutors aren’t being effective, so Mr. Panton has taken matters into his own hands, by beaming images of suspected shoplifters (apparently caught in the act by CCTV cameras) into Cayman’s online community.
We do not criticize Mr. Panton’s entry into “broadcasting,” but we harbor concerns about any “outsourcing” of basic law enforcement functions. Here’s why: Whenever the private sector volunteers to pick up the slack for the public sector, it relieves government of the burden of accountability and provides an incentive for continued neglect of their official obligations.
For certain, the responsibility for law enforcement and criminal justice belongs squarely in the public sector. Neither Mr. Panton nor anyone else in the Cayman Islands should have to resort to Facebook in order to get criminal suspects booked into jail.
At root, all Cayman has — economically speaking — is its reputation. The supplanting of “safety and stability” by “danger and lawlessness” in the minds of tourists and investors will sink our three precious gems into the sea far faster than even the boldest predictions of climate change.
Admittedly, “name and shame” does possess a certain sirenic allure — as evidenced by Mr. Panton’s statement that his social media campaign has already begun to produce results. Yet, we would caution that most times those results, while immediate, will only be superficial. Just like those “hot checks” plastered near convenience store counters, it won’t be long before the photos and videos of red-handed shoplifters merge into the stream of media and subside into the background of the general consciousness, never to be viewed again.
The only sure way to stop shoplifting, or any crime, is the traditional way — through arrests, charges and prosecutions, within an efficient and equitable justice system. That way, the naming occurs in due course, and the shaming is appended as necessary, according to the innocence or guilt of the individual accused.